Over the last 30 days, I’ve interviewed all types of wannabe and real-life content marketers. I’ve interviewed the accomplished-but-burnt-out journalist who is ready to make the transition into the big, bad business world. I’ve interviewed the public affairs lifer who — even after given three chances — could not identify the difference between public affairs and modern content marketing. I’ve interviewed the marketing manager with so many writer and editor friends that he can’t even keep count. (Is that really something to brag about?)

None of those were my most interesting interview, though. That one was with an early career quasi-writer, quasi-marketer, quasi-salesperson who asked the seemingly simple question, “How do I get into the content game?”

The question didn’t necessarily stump me, but it did give me pause. I rephrased it in my mind as, “If you are someone with some professional experience, but no content marketing experience, what steps can you take to become an attractive content marketing candidate?”

One month later, here’s my answer.

Read a lot, but use a heavy filter

I leave room in an interview to be impressed by someone who really knows their material, however, there is a delicate balance in play here. You have to read enough to truly immerse yourself in content marketing, but not too much from the wrong sources.

If your first, second, and third source for content marketing information comes from a software company like HubSpot, mark me concerned. Don’t read this as me hating on HubSpot. Most of their material is solid, but theirs is an approach designed for volume and SEO purposes. And there’s just a LOT more to content marketing than that.

Diversify your sources. Read material from agencies, corporations, associations, and independent consultants. Decide who and what you believe in, and which approaches feel right for you.

Create something on a regular basis

You don’t have to be a content creator to get into content marketing. Content marketing requires content strategists, marketing managers, social media types, writers, editors, and everything in between.

Regardless of which role you think you might fit into, start creating something on a regular basis. If you’re a writer, then sure, you should write. If you’re the type that might manage campaigns, then start creating your blueprints for truly integrated campaigns. If you’re an entry-level candidate, conduct an evaluation of companies’ content marketing efforts.

The point? You don’t have to be a creative to be a creator. Just get started.

Know your flavor

I frequently ask candidates, “What flavor of marketer are you?” or “What flavor of content marketer are you?” The answers (or non-answers) to those questions reveal two very important aspects of the candidate’s general makeup:

  • Is the candidate self aware, and comfortable enough with who they are to express it in a succinct and enthusiastic way?
  • What type of marketer/content marketer are we really evaluating?

So for instance, if you’re looking at our writer/content strategist position, when I ask for your flavor, tell me if you are a pure writer who wants to get into more of a strategic role, or someone who is looking to continue to create copy, but with more depth and research to stay true to your journalistic roots. Or maybe you’re someone who has truly played the content strategist role but has also done a lot of concept editing. Again, also fine. But know your flavor and whatever you do, don’t pretend you’re something you’re not.

If you’re someone who sits on the marketing side of content marketing, and you’re looking at our marketing manager position, tell me if you’re more of a B2B or B2C type. Are you more project manager or account manager? Have you been immersed in the content marketing process, or are you just the person who manages the content traffic flow?

If you’re confused about all this “flavor” craziness, “The 7 Flavors of Content Marketing: What’s Yours?” will help. We use it as a guide with our prospective and current clients to determine goals and direction. Apply those “7 flavor” principles to the types of things you know and believe about content marketing. How do you think it should be used? What do you think are best practices? And then be ready to defend what you think.

Know your number

Ok, so this isn’t really content marketing-specific, but it gives me a chance to rant, and I always love those opportunities.

If you are a candidate for an open position, especially a candidate who pursued the position actively, know your damn number. You might be asked a question like: “What is the salary that would get you excited about this position?” The following are unacceptable responses:

  • It depends on the whole offer package.
  • It’s all negotiable.
  • Anywhere from $20,000 – $3,000,000. (Offering a range can be ok. But know that if you offer a range, as a hiring manager I am thinking that you’d consider an offer at any level within that range. And if I make you an offer in that range, and you seem offended or tell me it’s too low, then the miscommunication is on you.)

I just need to know the number. And you should know that number. I understand that many other aspects of the job matter, especially for the millennial generation, but the money side allows both parties to figure out if the employer-employee relationship is even a possibility.

Don’t ignore the technology

Regardless of whether you are a writer, editor, campaign manager, content strategist, or social media specialist, if you assume “someone else” will worry about how to use technology offerings to execute and manage content marketing programs, it will come back to bite you eventually.

While this certainly isn’t the first category I evaluate, if you’ve never touched a content management system, don’t even know what marketing automation is, and cannot understand why a web-based editorial calendar might make sense, you’re going to have some explaining to do.

If you want to be a content marketer of any variety and your previous experience doesn’t qualify you, use these five tips to close the gap between you and the seemingly qualified candidates. After all, just because they have fancy content marketing titles on their resumes doesn’t mean they’ve been doing content marketing the right way.

You can start your content education process with our recent eBook, “Build Your Content Marketing Plan: A 10-Step Guide,” and if you’re ready to get into the “game,” check out our open content marketing positions.